|As the twentieth century dawned, eugenics and the race to identify the cellular source for inheritance began. With the discovery of Mendel’s research, eugenics as a science shaped politics and public conscience.|
The prophet Daniel’s vision (chapter 12) of the final years before Christ’s return came with a caveat: “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4). The twentieth century certainly fit this definition. Consider these landmark events (the list is lengthy, but take the time to read it through):
- 1900: The first successful radio receiver transmission
- 1902: The lie detector; neon lights
- 1903: The Wright Brothers’ gas-powered airplane engine
- 1904: Vacuum diode; tractor
- 1905: Albert Einstein publishes theory of relativity
- 1906: Lewis Nixon invents first sonar device; Lee de Forest invents triode
- 1907: First helicopter; synthetic plastic
- 1908: Ford’s Model T (assembly line); Geiger counter; gyrocompass
- 1910: Edison invents talking movies
- 1912: Military tank invented
- 1913: Merck invents drug now known as “ecstacy”; Bertrand Russell writes Principia Mathematica,founding a new artificial intelligence quest
- 1914: Morgan gas mask just in time for World War I
- 1915: Chess automaton built
- 1916: Stainless steel; radio tuners
- 1918: Superheterodyne radio circuit invented (used even today in TV and radio); Spanish flu pandemic
- 1919: Short-wave radio
- 1920: The tommy gun
- 1921: Diphtheria vaccine; tuberculosis vaccine
- 1923: Television; frozen food; term “robot” coined in the play “Rossum’s Universal Robots”
- 1924: Scarlet fever vaccine
- 1926: Liquid-fueled rockets; pertussis vaccine
- 1927: Technicolor; iron lung
- 1928: Penicillin; discovery that bacteria can transfer genetic information
- 1930: Jet engine
- 1931: Electron microscope; radio telescope; chromosome linkage discovered that confirms chromosomes carry heritable information
- 1932: Yellow fever vaccine
- 1933: FM radio; first drive-in theater
- 1934: First tape recorder (magnetic tape)
- 1935: Canned beer; radar
- 1936: Colt revolver
- 1937: First jet engine; photocopier; typhus vaccine
- 1938: LSD synthesized
- 1940: Jeep; color TV (just in time for World War II)
- 1941: First computer using software; first program-controlled robot
- 1943: Term “cybernetics” coined by Julian Bigelow
- 1944: Discovery of DNA as the genetic material within each cell
- 1945: Atomic bomb; first public influence vaccine (flu vaccines were tested during WWII on the military); transponders (forerunners of RFID tech) used by military
- 1946: Microwave
- 1947: Roswell crash; holography invented; transistor
- 1950: 1:1 pairing of nitrogenous bases (adenine/thymine, guanine/cytosine) is proven; videotape recording; Turing Test is established as means to measure machine intelligence; Asimov publishes “Three Laws of Robotics”
- 1951: Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins use X-ray diffraction to show that DNA is helical; first working “artificial intelligence” program
- 1952: Patent for barcodes; hydrogen bomb (thanks to Edward Teller); polio vaccine
- 1953: James Watson and Francis Crick determine molecular structure of DNA
- 1953: Transistor radio
- 1954: Oral contraceptives; solar cell; anthrax vaccine
- 1955: Fiber optics
- 1956: First computer hard disk; term “artificial intelligence” first used
- 1958: Modem; laser; integrated circuit; Teddington Conference on the Mechanization of Thought Processes
- 1959: Microchip; Artificial Intelligence (AI) lab founded at MIT
- 1960: Book, Man-Computer Symbiosis, published by Licklider
- 1961: Valium; AI program solves calculus at college freshman level
- 1962: First computer game; oral polio virus; first industrial robot company Unimation founded
- 1963: Videodisk; measles vaccine
- 1964: BASIC (computer language)
- 1965: NutraSweet; compact disc; ELIZA (conversational computer program) successfully tested
- 1967: Handheld calculator
- 1969: Arpanet (forerunner to Internet); ATM; artificial heart; barcode scanner; Shakey the Robot successfully combines animal locomotion, perception, and problem solving; first International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence meets at Stanford
- 1970: Daisy-wheel printer; floppy disk
- 1971: Microprocessor
- 1972: Word processor
- 1973: Gene splicing; Ethernet; first recombinant organism
- 1974: Chicken pox vaccine
- 1975: Laser printer; first scientific publication by acomputer (Meta-Dendral learning program)
- 1976: Ink-jet printer
- 1977: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI); two new companies form—Amtech and Identronix (both arising from Los Alamos Labs research) to explore “civilian uses” for rfid (Los Alamos had developed the system to keep track of nuclear materials [for all the good it did])
- 1978: Vaccine for meningitis; MOLGEN program (written at Stanford) demonstrates object-oriented representation of knowledge that could be used in “gene cloning”
- 1979: Cell phones; Cray supercomputer; Sony Walkman; rfid transponders tried in dairy cattle; INTERNIST-I (medical diagnostic computer program)
- 1980: Hepatitis B vaccine; Supreme Court rules that genetically altered organisms can be patented (Diamond v. Chakrabarty); first conference of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence
- 1981: DOS; IBM PC; scanning tunneling microscope; rfid tried by railroads to keep track of “rolling stock”
- 1982: Human growth hormone genetically engineered (Humulin); rfid use begins in tollbooths and to identify fleet vehicles
- 1984: Apple Macintosh computer; rfid tags move from write once to programmable up to 500k times.
- 1986: Synthetic skin; superconductor; field tests of GMO tobacco
- 1987: Field testing on GMO tomatoes; Marvin Minsky publishes Society of the Mind, in which he claims the mind is a network of cooperating “agents”
- 1988: Digital cell phones; RU-486 (abortion pill); Prozac; Doppler radar
- 1989: HD Television
- 1990: World Wide Web; data mining begins
- 1992: FDA says GMO foods are not “inherently dangerous”
- 1993: Pentium Processor; Polly, the artificial intelligence bot that performs at animal speeds and uses “vision” to navigate
- 1994: HIV protease inhibitor; France approves GMO tobacco; two robotic cars navigate Paris traffic with passengers on board
- 1995: Java computer language; DVDs; ALVINN (semi-autonomous robot) steers a car across US (throttle/brakes controlled by human)
- 1997: “Deep Blue” chess computer defeats world champion Garry Kasparov
- 1996: WebTV
- 1999: Sony’s AIBO dog becomes sensation as first autonomous robotic “pet”
- 1998: Viagra; Lyme disease vaccine
- 2001: Artificial liver; iPOD
The eighteenth century began with horse-drawn carriages, kerosene and/or whale oil lighting, and a narrow understanding of biology. In fact, little had changed from previous centuries. However, by 1899, gas or electric lighting had turned night to day, coal heating had been replaced with natural gas, automobiles shared the road with horses, man took flight in air balloons, and genetics had emerged as a specialty within the burgeoning discipline of biology. The rate at which science and industry announced new discoveries and invention in the twentieth century outpaced the previous century like a hare racing past a befuddled tortoise.
Building upon the racially biased, biosocial “psychometrics” of Sir Francis Galton, high-society pseudoscientists morphed genetics into eugenics (Greek for “true birth”) in a self-serving bid to “improve the human condition.” By 1900, Darwin’s ideas permeated social science with racist rancor. David Starr Jordan, first president of Stanford University, authored a book in 1902 that distilled and codified the rising field of eugenics. I refer toBlood of a Nation: The Study of the Decay of a Nation through the Survival of the Unfit). In this treatise, Jordan advocates a program of “artificial selection,” in which inferior forms are destroyed and superior forms encouraged. But he went even further:
To select for posterity those individuals which best meet our needs or please our fancy, and to destroy those with unfavorable qualities, is the function of artificial selection. Add to this the occasional crossing of unlike forms to promote new and desirable variations, and we have the whole secret of selective breeding. This process Youatt calls the “magician’s wand” by which man may summon up and bring into existence any form of animal or plant useful to him orpleasing to his fancy. (pp. 13–14 emphasis added)
Ultimately, Starr argued, it is war that weakens any society, for nations inevitably send their best to the battlefield, forever removing superior blood of those who die.
By 1910, scientists like David Starr Jordan and Charles Benedict Davenport joined ranks with America’s northeastern elite (Harriman, Rockefeller, and Carnegie) to form the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) of Cold Spring Harbor, New York. The stated goal of the ERO was to study human patterns of heredity in order to eliminate the substandard or socially inadequate. To achieve this goal, the ERO sought out politicians across the country, advocating and even lobbying for enactment of sterilization laws that would prevent undesirables from reproducing. The ERO also promoted selective breeding programs that would improve the human stock, yielding greater percentages of the strong and bright.
The ERO’s “advisory committee” included experts in statistics, criminology, physiology, biology, thremmatology (scientific “breeding” of selected plants and animals), history, law, religion and morals, anthropology, psychiatry, sociology, and even an oddly named “Woman’s Viewpoint” offered by one Caroline B. Alexander.
The 1914 ERO Report (“Report of the Committee to Study and to Report on the Best Practical Means of Cutting Off the Defective Germ-Plasm in the American Population,”compiled by H. H. Laughlin, a former high school teacher with a profound interest in Mendelian inheritance) divided the undesirables into ten classes:
1. The Feeble-minded Class
2. The Pauper Class
3. The Inebriate Class
4. The Criminalistic Class
5. The Epileptic Class
6. The Insane Class
7. The Asthenic Class
8. The Diathetic Class
a. Species Difference
b. Racial Difference
c. Family and Individual Differences
9. The Deformed Class
10. The Cacæsthetic Class
According to Laughlin, the purpose of the Eugenics Record Office is to determine a means to uproot and remove defective germ plasm from American inheritance. Laughlin refers to this as the “negative side of the problem,” leaving the “positive side” (that of breeding better Americans through artificial selection) to others. Referring to those in the above list, Laughlin writes: “If they mate with a higher level, they contaminate it; if they mate with the still lower levels, they bolster them up a little only to aid them to continue their own unworthy kind. They constitute a breeding stock of social unfitness” (ibid., 15).
These early decades of the twentieth century formed a hideous breeding ground for the pseudoscience of “eugenics.” Moral decay painted cities with a broad and hideous brush. The rise in immigration, particularly to America’s eastern seaboard, led to perceived racial divides while segregating people groups within the confines of slum housing. Against this impoverished background glittered a rising aristocracy with new money and old family ties. The industrial age brought railroads, oil, and electricity. Henry Ford’s assembly lines replaced craftsmen, creating affordable goods for the working man. Electricity bedazzled the modern streets of major cities, and soon dirigibles and prop-engine planes dotted the evening skylines. The twentieth century promised more products with less effort, and “modern living through chemistry” fireproofed homes; replaced dangerous glass with easy, unbreakable plastics; and even improved cosmetics.
Not every aspect of this brave, new world was rosy, however. War built new corporations, but it also filled furrowed fields with the blood of nations. As soldiers traveled across borders, H1N1 (dubbed the “Spanish Flu” because it first rose to international attention via an epidemic in Spain) decimated families across the globe. Vaccines and antibiotics changed medicine, but they also inoculated millions with SV40, a virus native to Rhesus monkeys whose livers had been extracted (posthumously) and used to grow Merck’s polio vaccine in the 1950s and 60s. Now, SV40 is known as a carcinogen. This DNA virus plays havoc with a cell’s natural lifespan, switching off a gene known as TP53, which encodes for the protein p53. The protein p53 plays a major role in tumor suppression by acting like a “stop signal” when a cell has reached the end of its life. This “stopped” cell would no longer divide—indeed it would die. So, SV40 appears to mutate TP53, changing the resulting protein’s shape, which renders it incapable of acting as a “stop signal.” The polio vaccine is not the only medicine with death in the mix. A statement by Dr. Maurice Hilleman, former chief of Merck’s vaccine division, not only reveals SV40 as a component of the polio vaccine, but also appears to indicate the presumed unintentional inclusion of HIV in the hepatitis B vaccine.
World War I never truly ended politically. Germany’s defeat and humiliation served as a fecund surrogate for the birth of the world’s next Napoleon: Adolf Hitler. Though most have read or heard of Hitler’s drive to create an Aryan super-race of men (Übermensch—translated roughly asSuperman), few realize that Hitler’s inspiration derived from American and British eugenics programs, including twin studies performed and advocated by the Eugenics Records Office. According to Edwin Black, in an article published by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2003, “The concept of a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed master Nordic race didn’t originate with Hitler. The idea was created in the United States, and cultivated in California, decades before Hitler came to power. California eugenicists played an important, although little-known, role in the American eugenics movement’s campaign for ethnic cleansing” (Edwin Black, “Eugenics and the Nazis—the California Connection,” San Francisco Chronicle. November 9, 2003).
Believing his nation had become weak because of inferior bloodlines and degenerate breeding, Hitler employed both negative and positive approaches (as mentioned earlier by Laughlin in his report for the ERO) to improve Germany’s bloodlines. Physicians were required to report any and all degenerative illnesses to the government. Hereditary “health” courts sprang up all over the country, leading to the forced sterilization of over four hundred thousand people (Robert Proctor, “Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis,” Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1988, 108). Those deemed so inferior that they presented a burden on society faced the ultimate penalty at the Hartheim Euthanasia Centre, where patients breathed their last in rooms filled with carbon monoxide. The Lebensborn program sought to increase pure Aryan numbers through extramarital affairs between SS officers (whose bloodlines were verified) and equally pure German females. The offspring of these affairs were raised by the state and placed with genetically acceptable families. Buxom, blond German women mated with muscular, intelligent blond men provided true Aryan genes to select for superior Aryan children.
Most historians would say that the eugenics era ended in 1979, when California’s lawmakers struck down that state’s longstanding, compulsory sterilization law. However, I would argue that the program continues in the drive to catalog the human genome and improve it. The Human Genome Project (HGP) provides the baseline that genetics researchers can now “tweak.” The twentieth century brought an explosion of genetics discoveries. We’ve come a long way from the early days when David Starr Jordan sought to improve the “germ plasm.”
According to the May 2011 report prepared by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, the project not only created three hundred and ten thousand private-sector jobs, but it also turned the initial $3.8 billion investment into a whopping $796 billion! Aren’t you grateful for the long hours that the HGP scientists and techs spent slaving over lab benches? I know I am! Thanks to these countless hours, scientists now have reference information for 3 billion base pairs, dropkicking science into a brand new age!
Here’s what the report mentioned above has to say about this brave new age of genetics:
Scientists are using the reference genome, the knowledge of genome structure, and the data resulting from the HGP as the foundation for fundamental advancements in medicine and science with the goals of preventing, diagnosing, and treating human disease. Also, while foundational to the understanding of human biological systems, the knowledge and advancements embodied in the human genome sequencing, and the sequencing of model organisms, are useful beyond human biomedical sciences.
The resulting “genomic revolution” is influencing renewable energy development, industrial biotechnology, agricultural biosciences, veterinary sciences, environmental science, forensic science and homeland security, and advanced studies in zoology, ecology, anthropology and other disciplines. (Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, “Economic Impact of the Human Genome Project,” May 2011)
The baby boom generation, born to returning WWII veterans, has seen the world shift on its axis. In 1945, the war in the Pacific ended with the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, ushering in the nuclear age and a frantic study of genetic mutations by radiation. The war also ushered in unparalleled economic growth in the United States. Returning veterans found well-paying jobs, married, and built new homes. America’s gross national product skyrocketed as middle-class numbers swelled. White color, service-industry jobs increased as our country shifted from producing goods to consumerism. The “service industry” replaced traditional factories. Corporations gobbled companies, and conglomerates fed on corporations. Thanks to Eisenhower’s interstate system, goods moved easily and cheaply while American tourists fell in love with station wagons and “mobile homes.”
In 1953, when Watson and Crick unraveled the structure of the DNA molecule, most children played with dolls or popguns. Television had only just emerged as a new form of entertainment, but the new medium had already become an integral part of most “boomer” families. Frozen dinners consumed while watching I Love Lucy or Arthur Godfrey had begun to replace home-cooked meals around the dining room table. New home appliances helped women finish housework and food preparation quickly, giving them more time to work outside the home. The postwar baby boom did far more than just create a new, massive US generation; it also created an insidious new lifestyle that would eventually tear families apart.
In stark contrast to their grandparents’ childhoods, today’s three-year-olds are handling rudimentary computers and learning that guns are evil. Free speech is a thing of the past, but free love is encouraged and even taught to kindergarten children as their right as humans. Knowledge has most definitely increased—so much so that the sum total of human knowledge is now said to double every ten years. Yet, with all these “improvements,” mankind has never been farther from God.
In fact, “mankind” itself is about to become an anachronistic term. Homo sapiens, the wonderful creation of a loving Father, is about to become extinct—or so George Church and Hugo de Garis would have us believe. The DNA molecule that Watson and Crick discovered during the early years of the boomer generation isn’t good enough for self-directed evolution. Scientists no longer seek merely to understand God’s marvelous molecule; they seek to replace it with a synthetic construct of man’s design. A concept called “transhumanism” lies at the core of this drive to alter mankind’s genome, and it is this hubristic notion—this deliberate jab into the eye of God—that may influence not only the mechanism within the coming Mark of the New World Order, but it may also increase its popularity with today’s Generation Y.
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